A new study concluded: “the race of the defendant and victim are both pivotal in the capital of capital punishment: death was more likely to be imposed against black defendants than white defendants; death was more likely to be imposed on behalf of white victims than black victims.”
According to Scott Phillips of the University of Denver, who examined death penalty cases in Harris County, Texas, if one takes into account the nature of the crime, “the odds of a death trial are 1.75 times higher against black defendants than white defendants,” with the odds of a death sentence for a black defendant at 1.49 times.
Adam Liptak of the New York Times commented that the statistics “have profound implications. For every 100 black defendants and 100 white defendants indicted for capital murder in Harris County, Professor Phillips found that an average of 12 white defendants and 17 black ones would be sent to death row. In other words, Professor Phillips wrote, ‘five black defendants would be sentenced to the ultimate sanction because of race.’”
Liptak notes that in 1987, the Supreme Court, in the 5-4 decision, held in McClesky v. Kemp that statistical evidence of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty does not violate the Constitution.